Recipe: Roast pepper and olive tapenade tart

Maybe it’s because I did a lot of cycling today (and it was so windy in London so my thighs were working extra hard) but I’ve been craving olives all day.

Olives are my popcorn. I could, and do, eat them by the handful. Black and wizened or fat, green olives, as large and acidic as unripe apples.

But eating olives out of the jar is a really unappealing habit (or so I’m told) so this Saturday evening, with some free time, I made an olive tapenade (minus anchovies!) and spread it on pastry.

It’s baking in the oven and the whole house smells delicious. Sam keeps wandering in and poking his head round the door to ask if it’s ready yet (and to check I haven’t licked the bowl I made the tapenade in clean). He’s thoughtful like that.

Update: tart was fabulous, especially with the sweet peppers and salty olive combo. It’s also so quick to make, and great with a simple side salad.

Hope you’re all having a lovely Saturday!

Tapenade

Ingredients

A cup of green or black olives, pitted

Two cloves of garlic

A squeeze of lemon juice

A glug of oil

Half a red chilli

Method

Blitz!

Tart

Ingredients

Roll vegan pastry

Four mixed peppers

One red onion

Olive oil

Balsamic vinagar

Salt and pepper

Method

Slice peppers and onion and put in baking tray. Cover with olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic. Season. Cook for 20 minutes or until roasted.

Roll out pastry to fit the tray. Cover tray with light layer of olive oil and blind bake for ten minutes at 180 degrees.

Spread tart with tapenade and pop in the oven for another few minutes.

Scatter the vegetables over the tart and cook for another ten minutes or until crispy.

Serve with olive oil drizzle.

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Vegan pizza: yummy or not yummy?

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My Holland and Barrett meat free pizza

When I was in the US, I saw a lot of hoohah about Amy’s pizzas. These seemed to be a frozen, gf, vg option for vegans who really just wanted a quick ready meal to eat with their non-vegan, pizza loving brethren. The UK is painfully low on GF-VG pizza stocks. Holland and Barrett, a health food shop, stocks vegan “meat feast” pizza in some of its stores. This has a doughy, flaccid base with almost non-existant tomato sauce and is heaped with chunks of “beef” and “mince” and strange vegan pepperoni. I’ve never been a vegetarian or vegan who craves substitute meat products, and I actually found the whole concept of eating fake meat so weird that I picked off the chunks of whatever they were meant to be.

In the UK, if you’re a vegan craving pizza, what’s the plan? Normally I go to Franco Manca’s and order a pizza with just the tomato and oregano sauce (with extra olives and basil of course). This also works if you go to Pizza Express, or Strada (though make sure you say you’re dairy free or sometimes they sprinkle the base with Parmesan).

Short of making my own with blobs of vegan cheese, I can’t find a decent vegan pizza anywhere. And as much as I’d love to, I can’t eat Mozzarella. So, if you have any hints or tips on where to find good vegan pizzas, please do let me know by tweeting me at @Ellieross102 or leaving a comment below.

I’m desperate folks!

 

 

The fussy eater’s Christmas dinner!

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A steamy Christmas dinner with very flat Yorkshires

This year, my mum and dad came round to the fact that I really was severely  intolerant to dairy and gluten, and went all out to ensure that I could enjoy the Christmas cheer. Normally, I hate Christmas food. As a vegetarian, I was always handed a cop-off dry nut roast from M&S while the rest of the family tucked into turkey and ham and all the trimmings. Even though my mum and dad are vegetarian too, before quite recently they still thought that overcooked vegetables were just great, so Christmas dinner usually descended into a soggy, water-logged affair where the sprouts, now light green, would ooze water over the plate soaking the roast potatoes and the nut roast. 

The last five years I have cooked my own Christmas dinner. While everyone else tucked into the turkey, I would cook an innovative veggie main for my mum, dad and I that made the rest of the family envious. Until this year, I really struggled to understand why people enjoyed Christmas dinner.

But then this year, we had a family meal with just my boyfriend, my mum and my dad on Christmas day. My dad encouraged me to try Christmas dinner again, so I conceded. He made everything dairy and gluten free including this amazing tomato, butter bean and lentil nut roast which was absolutely fabulous. 

The roast potatoes were flour-free and fondenty and delicious. The sprouts weren’t overcooked. Mum made some cranberry sauce which actually worked. And, best of all, he even made me some little Yorkshire Puddings that were dairy and gluten free. Which, considering that a Yorkie is basically flour and milk was an absolutely wonderful (if slightly flat) achievement. 

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Super out of focus

It has been the only meal in living memory where nothing was compromised and I was able to eat everything on the plate. And that, being able to join in with everybody else because there were so few of us, made the day pretty special. And, even though visiting extended family members over the last few days has meant that I’ve had to live off potatoes only for three days, the memory of the effort my mum and dad put into to making Christmas edible for me got me through!

But I’m interested in how other vegans and vegetarians celebrate Christmas. Do you go traditional and still have a nut-roast? Or do you just have the trimmings? Has anyone just cooked themselves a separate meal and brought it to the table? 

Yalla Yalla-still pretty tasty

ImageThe owners of the restaurant clearly anticipated the speed at which their waitresses would work when they named their London-based mini chain Yalla Yalla-in arabic this means hurry up! The food takes a while to arrive, and the waitresses eye customers up lazily. There is no anticipation of what the customer might need. We sat without menus for several minutes only to be brought a bill; another time when we wanted the bill the staff seemed to flick their heads away whenever we tried to catch their eye. “Yalla yalla” is certainly what I’ve wanted to cry many a time, but luckily, the food is almost always worth it.

A startlingly good option for vegetarians, Yalla Yalla is one of those perpetually popular Soho institutions that appeals to vegans, meat-eaters, students and the wealthy. 

Yalla Yalla is based on Beirut streetfood; expect houmous, falafels and lots of parsley. What’s so wonderful about Yalla Yalla is that all the staples are elevated, making even a plate of humble humous a delight to mop up with the free rounds of flatbread which accompany the meal. 

A smoky baba-ghanoush is scattered with sweet red pomegranate seeds and a rich, top-quality olive oil is drizzled generously on top. The humous is also accompanied by the beautifully savoury oil and has a refreshing layer of tangy, parsley leaves. 

Even the falafels arrive with slices of red onion: the sweet sesame balls contrast beautifully with the sour onion slices.

However, the waitresses aren’t the friendliest. They look harassed and even at 8.30pm, want us out. A queue is forming outside, they say. They clear our plates before we’ve quite finished picking the pomegranate seeds out of the bowls and sucking the flesh off them. 

My companion mentioned how wonderful and crisp the halloumi was: “It lacked the chewiness, the slipperiness that you come to expect with halloumi.”

Best of all, the meal finished with a glass of apple, mint and ginger lemonade. It was a super, green palate-cleanser and one that back in July I had found myself craving in the hot weather.

Some places lose their appeal a few years after they open, but Yalla Yalla has only grown in interest for me. It is a light, refreshing meal set in a wonderfully bustling, if slightly chaotic small restaurant. 

 

Read other reviews here-to summarise, I’d go with the simpler items on the menu as they hit the spot far better than the elaborate, meaty dishes seem to. Another win for the veggies among us!

Terrible (The Telegraph)

 Mediocre (Time Out)

 Good (London Eater